Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gourmet Walk with Black Paris Divas

On March 31st, I had the pleasure of guiding eight members of the Black Paris Divas tour group on one of Discover Paris' most popular gourmet walks on the Ile Saint-Louis.

The day was a bit nippy but soon the weather was forgotten as we explored numerous epicurean boutiques and restaurants on the island.

We began the tour across the river, where Tom (my husband) took a group photo in front of a brûlerie called La Caféothèque. This boutique roasts and sells only single-origin coffee beans – not just from individual countries, but often from individual plantations within a country. There are no blends to be found here! Three rooms accommodate visitors who want to drink a cup of coffee in a relaxing setting, and beans may be purchased to take home.

Black Paris Divas' group in front of La Caféothèque
© Discover Paris!

We then walked across Pont Louis Philippe to the island, stopping in front of an épicerie fine (gourmet grocer) that sells mustards, nougat, wines, honeys, and numerous other products that all proudly proclaim their precise origins - their terroir. We moved on to a second boutique that specializes in foie gras produced from free-range ducks and geese, and then walked a short distance to the south side of the island to get a bit of perspective on its location in the city. I pointed out city landmarks visible from the island before plunging into the heart of the walk.

The Pantheon viewed from Pont Louis Philippe
© Discover Paris!

On rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Ile, the "main street" of the island, a true gourmet will find himself or herself in heaven! There are so many restaurants and food shops here that one must be judicious in selecting where to spend time.

Because the street serves not only tourists, but also those who inhabit the island, one finds the traditional shops there - the boulangerie/patisserie (bakery/pastry shop), the fromagerie (cheese shop), the marchand de vins (the wine shop), the boucherie (the butcher), the supermarché (the supermarket)... In that sense, it is a true market street. But trendy cafés, art dealers, and gourmet boutiques to add to the eclectic mix of businesses on this narrow thoroughfare, which was teeming with people that afternoon.


Monique and her husband put together a great group of shops for the tour. I wanted info about cheese, chocolate, wine and pastries and breads! Got that and more...

- Deborah Washington, one of the tour participants


As we made our way down the street, we discussed a wide variety of food items. Crêpes (rhymes with "yep" in English) and their accompanying cider, cheeses, chocolates, and French and Italian ice creams (Berthillon and Amorino, respectively) all received the attention they were due. We also stopped in front of one of the best restaurants on the island, Mon Vieil Ami, where vegetables from the Paris region are featured prominently on the menu. Meat and fish are indicated in small print, as though they were incidental to the dishes served.

Making crêpes at Sarrasin et Froment crêperie
© Discover Paris!

Façade of Mon Vieil Ami restaurant
© Discover Paris!

Berthillon ice cream boutique
© Discover Paris!

Do you like olive oils? I presented two beautiful shops where you may sample them. These boutiques select and promote olive oils based on their distinctive aromas and flavors, just as wine vendors promote wines. One of the stores, Première Pression Provence, specializes in olive oil from the Provence region of France (think Marseille, Nice, and Aix en Provence).

Interior of Première Pression Provence
© Discover Paris!

Tasting station at Première Pression Provence
© Discover Paris!

Première Pression Provence is run by Jenna, an American woman, who is assisted by Matthew, a charming young black man of Caribbean origin. Jenna is an oléologue, an olive oil expert, whose passion for these oils is infectious!


I enjoyed the Gourmet Walk, no doubt...I found the tour to be very informative since I consider myself to be a "Gourmet Foodie" of MOST (not all) sorts-LOL!!

- Winfrey Woody, one of the tour participants


The last stop on the walk was La Charlotte de l'Ile. Once a quaint and whimsical spot complete with marionettes, homemade chocolates, and fabulous hot chocolate, it has been recently been renovated and expanded by its new owners. It is still a lovely tea room and the owners say that they have retained the hot chocolate recipe for which the former proprietor was famous.

After the official presentation was over, members of the group were free to wander back to whichever shops struck their fancy during the tour. They sampled wares and made purchases, either for themselves or for family and friends back home. Two participants went back to Première Pression Provence just for this purpose and Jenna welcomed them enthusiastically!

I look forward to November 2012, when the next gastronomic adventure with Black Paris Divas will take place. Plans are being made to add a cooking class to the gourmet walk - check out the BPD Web site for information about the trip!


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